smart spending

Lower scorching winter heat bills

Making major renovations to your home to increase energy efficiency can run in the thousands of dollars, but if you're planning to live there for many more years, you'll make much of your money back over the next decade, Szoradi says. Here are some suggestions:


1. Replace your heating system. Since a heating system can run $10,000 or more, most people wait for their old systems to break down before buying a new one, says Marston. But if you're planning to buy one, spend the extra money for the most energy-efficient unit you can afford. Look for Energy Star-qualified models, which are 15 percent more efficient than standard models, the Department of Energy estimates. Figure out your savings by using this heating system replacement ROI calculator.

2. Replace windows, doors and skylights. Energy Star-qualified windows, doors and skylights use double- or triple-paned glass and special coatings that keep heat inside during the winter. For a big energy savings boost, consider making the investment. The increased insulation will cut down your heating bills -- and summer cooling costs -- over time.

3. Install ceiling fans. By rotating the blades in a clockwise direction, you'll be pushing hot air down from the ceiling back into the room, says Dave Walton, director of home ideas for North American energy provider Direct Energy. During the summer months, those same ceiling fans will also cut your cooling costs, providing year-around savings.

Tamara Holmes is a freelance writer based in Maryland.

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